Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mu Shu Pork from the US

Mu Shu Pork

Mu shu pork is another one of those dishes that are really American despite the foreign reference (kinda like Singapore Noodles). This burrito-like roll is self-assembled at the table, starting with the smearing of some dark sweet sauce onto a thin steamed skin, just as one does with Peking Duck. But that is where the similarity ends. Instead of using a roasted duck from China, the stuffing is a sauteed concoction of pork strips, cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, and whatever other fillers these guys want to offload.

Given that this is really only served in the US, I haven't had this in ages, so I made a request for it here at a random Chinese restaurant in California. And I am a bit embarrased to say that I kind of like it. I suppose that the DIY aspect is a novelty that adds to the experience of eating these greasy little things, even if I can't seem to get Chris Tucker's Rush Hour 2 lines out of my head.


Pete said...

Hey, I love Mu Shu Pork, too! The last time I had one was last October at R&G Lounge in San Francisco's Chinatown. I wish we can find it in Singapore!

Stephen said...

It's all over the place in Chinatowns in Canada too, I enjoy it as well. The sauce tastes just like Hoisin sauce to me, or at least when I have it here it does.

Joo-Hyun said...

This actually reminds me of a Korean dish called Gu Jeol Pan - which basically means 'nine ingredients wrap'. Very interesting!

beppe said...

Yes, of course authentic styles of Chinese (or Malay, or Indian, or whatever...) are wonderful, but...

Too many people are ashamed of Americanized versions of various ethnic cuisines. Be proud of it, damn it!

Deliciousness in every form is to be celebrated, as is inventiveness and our flexibility in embracing new styles of food as our own.

Not everything has to be authentic! Just imagine, if we are such sticklers about authenticity, the world will miss the mishmash beauty that is Indian-Chinese cuisine...

I took a tour once to Europe with a group of middle-aged men and women from Beijing-region (don't ask why, it's complicated). The entire time they refused to try any of the new-to-them foods in each country, and wanted only comforting, home-country-style food prepared for them. Only expressions of disgust and dismay that foreigners would prepare such food in the "wrong" ways. Nothing new.

Such a disappointment, and a reminder that there is something fantastic in the North American openness to change and new food. Canada and the US are countries of immigrants. Nothing can remain static there. Let the rest of the world be the safeguarders of tradition. For North Americans it is our job to play with their ideas, and metamorphose them into our own.

Besides, if you ask me, things like Can/Chinese and American Chinese and Tex-Mex and so forth are genuine North American cuisines of their own in every right.

bma said...

Thanks for the thoughts. I totally agree with you that not everything has to be authentic. Indeed, we've had numerous discussions in the past here about the merits of localization, including an offshoot into the very Chindian food that you seem to appreciate so much.

But I find your Beijing anecdote to be misplaced. That sounded like they refused to try any local food, right? If anything, my philosophy is the complete opposite of that by intentionally trying new things that are unique to that particular region, especially having traveled so far to get there. Why waste valuable stomach space on food that one can get back home?

And that is precisely why I went for mu shu pork that day; because I like it and I can't get it elsewhere. As mentioned in the localization discussion, it shouldn't matter if a meal is localized or not, as long as it tastes good in the end. Chinese Chicken Salad is another American dish that I rather enjoy.

P.S. Please realize that the reason why I said that I was embarrased to liking mu shu pork was not because it was a localized American dish, but rather because it typically embraces rather crude fillers like cabbage and carrots to give it more bulk and color rather than taste.